Be Careful What You Say, and How You Say It


There are many statements I made to students when I was a teacher, and then, as a principal. Sometimes I would look back on what I had said, and feel good about the conversation because I had treated the child with respect, care, and consideration. And, then, there were the times I would consider what I had said, and how I said it, and simply shudder. How in the world could I have said that to a child? And, then, I knew what to do…issue an apology to that child… in front of the same approximate group of friends; that always seemed to be the best solution in a situation such as this.

In today’s political environment, I wonder if some elected officials, or those who wish to be elected, ever consider the same line of thinking. Do you think they realize the impact their words and actions are having on others? After all, those children, in addition to other politicians and the voting public, do hear, or hear about, what is said and discussed. And, do those in office, or running for office, ever stop to consider how their words impact a student’s academic, social, and emotional reality? After all, even if their talking points are not a part of the actual school curriculum, it is consistently obvious that any conversations in a child’s area of awareness do, in some way, impact his or her ability to learn.

First, consider these family situations:

  • When a child’s family experiences financial issues, that student’s ability to concentrate on schoolwork changes significantly, and a very different report card will typically be delivered at the end of the next grading period. The child is often angrier, or just plain sad, and displays less patience with others, having a negative impact on social relationships. After all, the extra music lessons would have stopped, participation in athletics often cease as the families are no longer being able to afford the uniform, camps, and other team requirements, and, certainly, the child often learns that summer camp, will no longer be affordable. Of course, the school will see a different child each day.
  • Upon receiving parental notification of a divorce, health issues, or any type of abuse in the home, the school will then understand why the children’s behaviors had changed so drastically. Sometimes children are able to express what was happening to them by saying something along the lines of: “I just can’t concentrate; there’s so much going on at home and I keep worrying about all of it.” But, for many others, expressing their thoughts or feelings isn’t even a possibility. In either case, grades and social relationships will suffer.

Now, returning to those officials, or those running for office, it becomes more clear that what, for some, might be political posturing or grandstanding, has a very different impact on those too young to understand those comments, and take the actions for what they really are. And, listening to any official say that schools need to stick only to topics of academic concerns lets us know that those speaking don’t understand the many issues that impact students in today’s world.

So maybe it’s time for officials, or those hoping to be elected to those positions, take a minute to consider more than serving the next interest group, or group of voters. Maybe they need to take the time to consider the children, and how they are affected by the words and actions of those in their world. Whether the topic is gender, bathrooms, or any of the other hot topics swirling around school districts these days, let’s consider the kids.

Regardless of your personal opinion, try saying whatever is on your mind with kindness and consideration. Think about how what you are saying will affect a child who has never really felt comfortable in his or her own skin. Who just never felt like he or she belonged

Say it nicely. These are children, and they have schoolwork to do.

And they are listening, and watching, every move you make.

Dr W


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